Two Birthday Cakes and a Tattoo

Another week has flown by and I’m now back at work with my holiday a fading memory. It was my last time off before December and I had so many plans but, as usual, the best-laid plans of mice and Julia are all filed away somewhere.

We did celebrate Miss F crossing the threshold into adulthood and I’m still struggling to believe that she’s 18 and technically an adult. The years have passed by in the blink of an eye and there are only three weeks left until she’s off to university.

I planned to deep clean the house and prepare the basement ready to advertise for a new lodger. Well, after several days of me finding anything else to do other than that, I suddenly realised why I was procrastinating so much. It was because I didn’t want to do it. Not because I don’t want to have another lodger – I have resigned myself to that inevitability – but because this house is going to be in a state of chaos from now until the 8th of September when we pack up the car and take the long trip North to take my girl to university. Did I want to add viewings and a stranger moving in into the mix?

No, I decided, I didn’t. It made more sense to wait until Miss F has gone, enjoy these last few weeks with her in peace, have no witnesses to the madness of packing, and then when she’s gone, clean the house knowing it will stay clean, and then advertise the room. After all, it will mean all Miss F’s things will be gone from the bathroom so there will be more space for the lodger, and it may even make the room easier to let if potential lodgers know there will only be one other adult using the facilities as well.

So, that’s what I’m going to do. Hang on until the 8th and hope my funds will stretch that far because I do need to get a lodger. We’ve managed to survive eight months without rental income, but my savings have been depleted and I can’t go on much longer without that crucial boost to my monthly income.

It’s Miss F’s last shift at work today (Saturday) and even though there are a few people she will miss I know she is very happy to be leaving. The manager has been trying to persuade her to stay longer, even going so far as to rota her in for five days a week right up until the night before she leaves for university, but Miss F is sticking to her guns. No, there is a lot to be done over the next couple of weeks and she needs the time to pack up one life ready to begin the next. Also, she’s exhausted. What with all the stress of exams and work she feels, and I agree that a break is essential.

But you didn’t give us enough notice, work is whining, we haven’t found anyone to replace you. Well, she gave them over twelve weeks’ notice which was more than enough time to find a replacement, but they didn’t bother, so frankly it’s their problem, not Miss F’s. She was supposed to work last night but had to cancel because she had her first Covid jab Thursday evening and by Friday morning her arm had turned to concrete and was too painful to move. That is one thing about her going away that I won’t miss, having to turn out late at night every Monday and Friday to make a 50-minute round trip on dark country lanes to collect her from a late shift. My petrol bill will be relieved as well.

As it’s a day shift today, Miss F takes the bus there and back and it will be her last time doing so. I’m working until six so I can’t pick her up and she will be home before me. But I am collecting our weekly grocery shop after I finish work and there is a big pizza in the order to have for dinner and celebrate her last ever shift there. Her work thinks she will be working there in her holidays. Miss F has not disabused them of that notion, but I don’t think she will be going back.

What else did I do on my holiday? Well, I did manage quite a lot of writing and almost 20,000 words were added to my latest book, so that was good. We also had my parents over for lunch on Wednesday to celebrate Miss F’s birthday. We somehow managed to pick the day with the nicest weather and as I was cooking lunch for us, I laid up the table outside and we had a lovely meal in the garden. At Miss F’s request, I did steak and all the trimmings which was delicious.

On Thursday her work had begged her to do an extra shift because they were so short-staffed, and she agreed to do 5-9pm. She hadn’t bothered to check with me first, knowing I was on holiday she had assumed I wasn’t doing anything so would be able to drive out at 9pm to pick her up. But, as I had told her several times, I was going to the theatre for the first time in years that evening, so at 9pm would still be watching the play.

It was okay though, my father offered to pick her up. I drove her there for five then called around to pick up my friend on the way back. We parked at mine, wandered down to a great pub opposite the theatre where we had booked a table for 5:45pm, to give us plenty of time to eat and relax before the play started at 7:30pm.

We wanted to buy drinks when we got to the theatre and order some for the interval and based on previous experience, we knew the theatre bar staff are so slow they couldn’t catch a cold. Heaven only knew how snail-like they’d be now Covid restrictions were in place.

The pub is a lovely old, oak-beamed one with lots of character and the menu is varied and the food fresh and well prepared. We shared a bottle of rose and ate our meal before wandering over to the theatre at just after seven.

It was a good call getting there early, queues stretched away from the bar into infinity, but the staff weren’t going to be hurried, they would go at their own sloth-like pace, and nothing would persuade them to go any faster.

The play was “Absurd Person Singular” by Alan Ayckbourn and it was very good. Dark humour that had us laughing one minute, then pondering the futility of modern life the next. Wandering home at just gone nine I was surprised to find Miss F already home. The restaurant had been quieter than expected and her shift had ended at eight, so my dad had an early night after all.

On Miss F’s actual birthday – Saturday, the 14th – I picked her up from work to save her from getting the bus and we swung by Tesco on the way back to pick up our weekly shop. Miss F hadn’t wanted a party but did ask if she could choose a big cake and that was going to be in with the shopping. Her only concern was that they would be out of stock of the one she had chosen and substituted it for a cake she didn’t want. We got there and the cake she wanted was in with our shopping – but at the bottom of the crate with a ton of tinned food and a big bag of potatoes dumped on top! The box was crushed, and we tried to examine the cake inside. It was still in one piece but there was damage to the fancy icing on the top and sides.

I showed it to the assistants.

ME:  Oh no! Her birthday cake is broken.

THEM: Would you like us to get the shop to bring over another one?

ME:  There’s no time. We have guests turning up in less than an hour and we must get home.

THEM: We’re so sorry!

ME:  Well, at least they got her candles right, a number one and an eight.

THEM: It’s her eighteenth and her cake is damaged! Look, we’ll refund you for it.

We drove home with our free cake and hoped when we got it out of the box it wouldn’t be as bad as it looked. It was worse. It looked like someone had sat on it and the fancy piped rosettes on the top were squished flat. As I hurried to put all the shopping away, Miss F grieved for her broken cake until I couldn’t take anymore and ordered her to get her shoes back on. Quickly, we rushed to Waitrose where she selected a millionaire birthday cake with triple layers of vanilla, chocolate, and caramel sponge, and enough sweet icing to stop your heart.

One perfect Birthday Cake

And if you’re wondering what happened to the broken cake. Well, it didn’t go to waste. I sliced it all up and Miss F took it to work with her on Monday where it was consumed by all the staff who didn’t know and wouldn’t have cared even if they did, that the icing was smashed on the edges and squashed on the top.

We had my favourite niece and her husband coming for dinner that night, but we were planning to buy a big Chinese takeaway so other than laying up the table, which I had already done, I had nothing else to prepare. We had a great evening. We all love Chinese food and the restaurant we buy from is really good. After dinner, we played lots of games and it was gone midnight when they left.

Last Sunday was a chillout and relax day. We were both tired from such a busy week and it was nice to rest and not have to worry about anything other than a nice dinner and Netflix.

Monday dawned. By this point, I had given up on any plans to deep clean and advertise for a lodger, so I devoted the whole day and Tuesday to writing. Miss F worked both days, so I was able to put my head down, forget about everything else, and write.

Wednesday, the last day of my holiday and the day Miss F was booked to have her tattoo – my main birthday present for her. Her appointment was for twelve, so we trailed down to the tattoo parlour in a party of three – me, Miss F, and her friend Miss T. After a bit of preamble where the artist drew pictures and established exactly what she wanted, Miss F pulled down her top, climbed onto his couch and prepared to be stabbed, repeatedly. It didn’t take long, about twenty minutes. I couldn’t see her shoulder because the artist was in the way, but I could see her feet and they didn’t twitch once, so when she said it hadn’t hurt, I believed her.

She’s very happy with it.

Model plane or feminist symbol?

For those wondering why a model plane. Well, there is a tale to be told there. Many years ago, when Miss F was at middle school so about eleven or twelve, she joined an engineering club the school had started in a lunchbreak. Sadly, she was the only girl in the group, even sadder was the fact the boys were a bunch of misogynistic little twerps even at that young age. Their first assignment was to split into groups and build a model plane. YOU can’t do anything; Miss F was told by the others in her group. YOU’RE a girl and girls can’t build planes, EVERYONE knows that! We can’t even trust you to paint it because you’ll paint it pink, so you can just stand there and watch.

Understandably upset by this, Miss F asked the male teacher if she could have a kit to make a plane by herself. She was told no, there were no more kits and that she was to go back to her group. Undeterred, Miss F went to the female teacher, told her what had happened, and was instantly given another kit.

Not only did Miss F complete her plane first and correctly, but her plane also flew the furthest in the trials, causing the boys in her group to whine and complain how unfair it was, then stamp on their plane in a fit of denial of male supremacy – or as us girls would put it – they threw all their toys out of their pram! Oh, and she also painted her plane pink and green, because why not?

I wasn’t aware of any of this until much later. All I knew was that this model plane came home from school one day and was put on our dresser where it sat for many years until I accidentally broke it earlier this year cleaning. If I’d only known, it was a symbol of feminism and girl power I would have handled it with kid gloves – but I was only told this after the plane was in pieces and in the bin.

I find it disgusting though, that the next generation of boys is still being raised by example to be such arrogant and unpleasant examples of male chauvinism. Because this kind of behaviour isn’t born it’s learnt from observation of the attitudes and language of the adults around them. Come on people, we can do so much better for our young women than this. Teach your sons it’s not okay to act this way. Teach your daughters to demand respect and equal consideration, or else nothing will change, and this kind of thing will spill onto the next generation and the next.

She says having the tattoo didn’t hurt at all and I believe her. When I had my tattoo done on the other shoulder to hers, it didn’t hurt at all. To be honest, I think breaking in the new Doc Martens she bought herself for her birthday is hurting her more.

My tattoo – 20 years old

After the tattoo, I treated us all to a lovely lunch in Miss F’s favourite restaurant and that was the end of my holiday. Back to work Thursday, Friday, and Saturday with no more time off until December.

And now it’s Saturday morning, I have tipped away my tea because it had a nasty tang and I have a suspicion the milk is off. I’m ready for work and desperately trying to get my blog written because I won’t have time tonight.

I have one day off tomorrow, but there is a ton of housework and other life stuff to attend to, I already know writing won’t happen, and then I’m back to work Monday and Tuesday. And so, my life turns.

Hope wherever you are, that your life is turning satisfactorily and happily, and I look forward to chatting with you next week.

Julia Blake

2 thoughts on “Two Birthday Cakes and a Tattoo

  1. Wonderful blog Julia. The story of Ms. F’s tattoo and why it is a model plane will stay with me. It is parable unto itself . It is shocking that the boys acted no differently in her generation, this present one, than they did in mine sixty years ago. It is a sad statement and I had really thought that in current western society we had made more progress than that. I was obviously naive. I am delighted and proud of young Ms. F’s spunk and determination to get her own kit. She already had internal confidence and the courage of her own principles to guide her at that early age. This is a credit to both you and her. As I said, a perfect l parable.

    All the birthday celebrations sounded lovely. And it does make sense to deep clean and look for a lodger after Ms. F leaves for university.
    Oh! I liked your tattoo as well. It really suits you now as well as then.
    Glad you did get some writing in too.
    My best,

    Liked by 1 person

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